Garnett and Shaq made Mozgov laugh, for different reasons
Timofey Mozgov may not know who Wilt Chamberlain is, but growing up he admired Shaquille O’Neal and especially Keving Garnett.
In fact, he even had a figure of a dunking Garnett standing on the shelf in his room, when he was learning how to play basketball at St. Petersburg boarding school. Years after that, on the verge of crossing the ocean Mozgov would name the Celtics as his favorite NBA team.
No wonder when Shaq signed in Boston and Mozgov crossed the ocean to face the greatest big men of today, meeting his childhood idols in person left the Russian giddily blogging at Sports.ru:
“He’s huge, very huge, just unrealistically huge! Even more so in real life than on TV. I think he’s not calling himself an alien from another planet for nothing. I saw Shaq for the second time in my life. Not only that, I’ve played against him, played against Shaquille O’Neal twice in my career! You can tell my childhood dream came true. The only thing left now is to see Jordan))”
“You can’t even imagine how huge Shaq is, – Mozgov told Kirill Zangalis of Sovetskiy Sport. – I’m not sure that I could wrap my arms around him; he’s a real man-mountain. I’ve played against the Greek giant Sofoklis Schortsanitis, and it was impossible to move him. But now after meeting Shaq in person I understand why Schortsanitis goes by the nickname “Baby Shaq” in Europe. Compared to the original he looks like a dwarf.
“It’s funny that Shaquille puts four giant cushions on his seat, – Mozgov told Sport-Express. – Probably regular chairs are too hard for him. Some of our guys also put cushions on their seats, but no more than two. And there he has four! When me and Gallinari saw that, we burst out laughing”.
One has to wonder if Eddy Curry is that Knicks player with two cushions on his seat.
“By the way, Shaq knows how to stay thanks in Russian. He came to me after the game and said, “Spasibo!”. I thought, “Wow”. We shared a laugh. He’s an amazing guy. We are of the same height, but he’s about twice as wide, and his feet are just unreal. They are the size of car wheels. I wear size 52 shoes, and his are… 22 in local measures, that would be I guess 55 or 56 in Europe”
For a starting center on the Knicks, there was little time to get starry-eyed.
“OK, it’s time to put the jokes and emotions aside, – Mozgov blogged. – I just got overwhelmed with my childhood memories. Right now I already look at Shaq as yet another opponent under the rim. It’s not that I’m getting over my head or feeling that I’m ready to battle Shaq as an equal. You just can’t be any other way in the NBA, or this machine will crush you in the paint without even noticing”.
Mozgov told Sovetskiy Sport of the game plan:
“Before the game [Coach Mike] D’Antoni told me what to do against this mountain: to try and make things difficult for Shaq, to try and intercept the ball, and in no way to start pushing around but instead to use my best qualities, agility and speed. And you know, I managed to pull it off. I did exactly what the coach demanded from me, managed to stop Shaq and even stole the ball from him one time, when he lost focus. I pretended like I’m out of contention and then tore the ball out of his hands. After that I felt confident, I didn’t commit unnecessary fouls and played defense. In the first quarter I grabbed an offensive rebound and dunked the ball. I scored my first points in the NBA!”
Facing his favorite NBA player left Mozgov with mixed emotions. He wrote:
“Garnett is great too. He’s also not young anymore, but still plays brilliant at a very high level. Though sometimes he doesn’t fight fair. Of course they overlook what he does, or maybe they just don’t notice a lot of things. Or maybe it’s just my perception because I’m not used to it. But at least when I was watching him on TV I never thought he used tricks like this. By the way, he too is much bigger in real life than on the screen”
Sovetskiy Sport quotes Mozgov:
“Kevin Garnett surprised me. I always admired him and had no idea that he could play this dirty. He was pushing me when nobody was looking, trying to provoke me.
“It even made me laugh – a player of great skills who would use tricks like this”.
Obviously for the last several years Mozgov was too busy with his own season in Khimki. Had he followed the NBA closely, he wouldn’t be as surprised after watching Garnett’s lapses or reading what other players have to say.
And nothing proves that Mozgov is not a basketball junkie than this exchange with Sport-Express writer Slava Malamoud:
– Before the World Championship game Lamar Odom talked about you as a Russian Chamberlain.
– I didn’t hear that, but of course it’s nice. Hey, we played a good game vs. the States in the quarterfinal. In my opinion, better than anybody else in the tournament, except Brazil.
– What do you know about Chamberlain?
– Was it him who shot those neat skyhooks?
– That’s Abdul-Jabbar.
– Then I don’t know anything.
– He dropped a hundred points in one game – on the Knicks, by the way.
– OK, now I know. How did he score – normal shots or all on treys?
– There were no treys then, and he normally missed the free throws.
– So he had to take at least fifty shots. Wow. Did he play alone in that game? It’s mind-boggling.